A sugar plum role for two young dancers

ON THEIR TOES— Above, Erin Gonzales, left, and Grace Elfers will play the role of Clara in alternate performances of

ON THEIR TOES— Above, Erin Gonzales, left, and Grace Elfers will play the role of Clara in alternate performances of “The Nutcracker” by Pacific Festival Ballet. Below, Grace, left, and Erin warm up.

Tis the season of sugar and spice and everything nice—including visions of sugar plums for dancers in the Pacific Festival Ballet as they prepare for the 24th year of the “The Nutcracker” Sat. and Sun., Dec. 16 and 17 at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd.

Since the theater’s inaugural season in 1994, Pacific Festival Ballet has produced the show each year with 150 dancers, snowfall and celebrity guest artists from New York City Ballet, Joffrey Ballet and San Francisco Ballet.

Courtesy photos

Courtesy photos

The cast includes professional Los Angeles-based dancers as well as auditioned students and adults from the ballet company’s training school, California Dance Theatre in Westlake Village.

Two local teenagers, both 16-year-old juniors, will share the lead role of Clara this year.

Erin Gonzales of Thousand Oaks will perform the role Sat., Dec. 16. Grace Elfers of Westlake will dance the part of Clara Sun., Dec. 17.

This is the third Pacific Festival Ballet “Nutcracker” performance for both girls.

The dancers are students of the Pre-Professional Training Platform Program at California Dance Theatre. The training program offers career and college-minded advanced dancers additional training taught by master teachers from international and regional ballet companies.

The program is by invitation or audition only.

The girls train 18 to 20 hours of dancing per week, not including rehearsals.

Classes consist primarily of classical ballet but also include jazz, contemporary, lyrical, modern and stretch and strength.

Rehearsals for the current show were held four days a week.

Both dancers attend the Conejo Valley’s Independent Study Program through Century Academy in Thousand Oaks, which affords them the time to dance.

Erin has been dancing since she was 8 years old. She has competed in the Youth American Grand Prix and the Spotlight. Erin also has attended summer programs with The Rock School, Boston Ballet and Ballet West.

Her goal is to attend a university dance program or conservatory, then join a contemporary ballet company after graduation.

Outside of dance she is the treasurer in her school’s Associated Student Government class. In her free time, Erin enjoys photography and assists with the 5-year-old ballet class at the studio. Her previous “Nutcracker” roles have been Star, Lady Licorice, Peppermint Princess, Gumdrop and Snow.

Erin’s previous performances with Pacific Festival Ballet include “Peter Pan,” “Noah’s Ark” and “Swan Lake” ballet collaboration with Conejo Valley Youth Orchestra.

Grace has been dancing since the age of 3 and has trained at multiple schools.

This past summer, she attended the Miami City Ballet’s summer program. Her goal is to become a trainee at a professional classical ballet company after graduation. Grace would also like to attend college to study fashion design. She joined Pacific Festival Ballet in 2015 and has been a member of the California Dance Theatre Pre-Professional Training Platform since 2016.

Grace also danced in PFB’s “The Nutcracker,” “Peter Pan” and “Noah’s Ark.” This past summer she took part in the Miami City Ballet’s Summer Intensive.

“Nutcracker” tickets are available at the TOCAP box office or through Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000 or at PacFestBallet.org.

Acorn staff report